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Four-eyes model

The four-eyes model is a communication model for photography put forward by Martin Zurmühle. According to the four-eyes model, a photograph affects the viewer on four different levels. These four levels are the ‘form’ eye, the ‘narrative’ eye, the ‘feeling’ eye and the ‘I’ eye.

The four-eyes model describes the multilayered effect of photographs on the viewer. The model is based on the four-sides model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. Contrary to human communication, however, photography is a one-sided form of communication between the photographer as the sender and the viewer of the images as the receiver. The four aspects of a message according to the communication square (factual information, self-revelation, relationship and appeal) were therefore adapted to communication with photographs.

Based on insights gained from reciprocal communication in conversations between two people, the Swiss architect, photographer, author and educator Martin Zurmühle developed a model for the one-sided communication between a photographer and a viewer. The four-eyes model describes how photographs affect the viewer in four different ways: the ‘form’ eye provides visual pleasure, the ‘narrative’ eye reports about life, the ‘feeling’ eye perceives emotions and the ‘I’ eye shows the language of the artist.

The classic design rules of photography apply in the first instance to the ‘form’ eye and the ‘narrative’ eye. These areas work with rational methods and hard facts (attributed primarily to the left half of the brain). The ‘feeling’ eye and the ‘I’ eye are significantly more difficult to grasp, as they are in the realm of soft factors (attributed primarily to the right side of the brain). Even so, general statements can also be made in this area, even if they are not as clear and unequivocal.

All four levels (form, narrative, feeling, I) are involved to a different degree regarding photographs, appealing to both halves of the brain (the rational left and the emotional right). Only the correct interplay between these four levels creates special and very effective images that have an effect on viewers and draw their attention.